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Ibfan Africa

IBFAN Africa

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The African region and particularly Sub-Saharan Africa stands out globally among other regions for not being on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 by 2015. Over 80% of the households in Africa survive on less than US$1 per day. As a result, poor children are 10 times more likely to die before their 5th birthday than a child in developed countries.  Furthermore, in this region, one in seven children dies before reaching the fifth birthday. With nearly half of all deaths of children under-five occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa the urgency for the need for action by all agencies cannot be overemphasized.  Malnutrition, compounded by HIV and AIDS, as well as lack of access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure, contributes to the high morbidity and mortality of infants and young children.

In view of the vital importance of maternal nutrition and optimal infant and young child feeding practices for child survival, growth and healthy development as well as maternal wellbeing, a coherent regional approach is necessary.  Country-specific solutions at national and local level are important but currently insufficient. Implementation and monitoring of international norms and standards is required to provide legal measures to protect infant and young child health. Sustainable capacity in the health sector and at national and local policy and implementation level is built step-by-step and hand-in-hand with government agencies. IBFAN Africa greatly contributes to the needed improvements in all these areas and could do better if more resources were made available for its work.

IBFAN Africa regional work covers over 70 groups and focal points in 27 countries.  Its membership comprises CSO groups and individual members some of whom are from Government ministries where their positions and influence in government greatly benefits IBFAN work with policy makers and in the communities. Over 50% of members work as volunteers and these can be civil society activists, health care and public service officials using their spare time to support the network.  The Regional office is only able to provide modest seed grants to support some of their activities.  In Africa, networking with volunteers presents its own challenges as few members are able to invest their own resources.  African volunteers live on low wages and take care of many dependents.  However as organized groups they provide a valuable service as a network from national to community levels. IBFAN Africa is well known for its ethical stand and technical expertise in this area of infant and young child feeding and has been supporting national governments in capacity building for over 28 years.

IBFAN does not operate in isolation by running parallel programmes in the countries but because it believes in sustainable actions, it always works within existing government programmes. 

In supporting Governments in implementing the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child feeding, the regional office has trained 20 countries in the World Breastfeeding Trends initiative (WBTi). Nine countries (Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Uganda, Malawi, Cape Verde, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) now have their reports uploaded on the WBTi website.  Four more country reports are being processed while the rest are still collecting their data, and four are undertaking re-assessments. The great advantage of this tool is that it draws all stakeholders together to discuss the results, reach a consensus and develop recommendations for follow up plans of actions.  In addition, all the indicators can be summarized in report cards and at a glance; the performance of all the countries can be visualized.  In this respect, all the countries have scored very poorly in implementation measures to support the working mother as well as infant feeding during emergencies.  The countries have drawn up specific strategies aimed to address their particular gaps identified in their implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.  Countries such as the Gambia and Ghana have highlighted big gaps in their programmes on infant feeding in emergencies, while Mozambique has the highest score on this indicator.  These assessments enable the Regional Office to be efficient as well as to prioritise support to the countries while at the same time, sharing best practices amongst and within countries.  The country report cards are invaluable tools which the Regional Coordinator uses in her advocacy meetings with policy makers at national level.

IBFAN Africa is not only a major and trusted player in the area of infant and young child feeding in Africa but is also a regional focal point for WABA and works closely with the UNICEF, WHO and other regional organs that include SADC, AU, ECSA and ECOWAS.